The ugly specter of sex-selection abortion is a reality in Asia, and unfortunately not just in China. Modern technology has met old attitudes and made this possible. It is legal here in the USA de facto, but not much practiced except a little bit in the Asian community. [Abortion for sex selection is not specifically legalized, but abortion as such has been declared to be a ‘civil right,’ and the state cannot inquire about the motives.]
The one country that seems to have embraced sex selection and then moved away from it is that supposedly Christian country, South Korea. They had an upsurge of sex-selection abortions in the 1990s, as revealed in their gender ratios among newborns. But as the workplace changes and modernizes, females are as valued for postindustrial work as males, and there are signs, according to The Economist, of gender ratios in that country returning to normal.
You do not hear much of sex-selection abortion in countries that were formerly Christian; a proper respect for women – indeed a little bit exaggerated in post-Christian times – is part of Europe’s heritage from Christianity. You are also not likely to hear of it from Africa. There, in most cultures, the ‘bride-price’ system works the opposite of the Indian dowry system; the groom is supposed to present the father of the bride with two cows, or perhaps more depending on the circumstances. A wealthy man can have several wives this way. This may not exactly be the best of all possible worlds for women, but at least there is not the disappointment in a girl baby that there is under the dowry systems of Asia.
Polygyny and an excess of males both leave you with the problem of ‘old maid’ young men, to coin a bad metaphor. If the society is or becomes warlike, the problem is solved easily, for the extra boys get killed in war. [What is frightening about this is that China has the incentive to become warlike.] In more peaceful polygamous communities like those of Colorado City, Arizona, they still have to use every excuse to weed out the extra boys, who become ‘Lost Boys’ and are taken care of by the Christians and orthodox Mormons of nearby St. George, Utah.
Interestingly enough, for reasons too complicated for this post, the sex ratio of American universities and colleges is almost the reverse of that of China and parts of northern India. To quote a song almost 40 years old, “Surf City, here we come!” [No, Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz, who claim the title, do not have two girls for every guy. Only university campuses.] Some of the pornification and salaciousness of campus life has been attributed to the fact that men are relatively few and must be competed for. Maybe sometime I’ll write about that.
Related: “The worldwide war on baby girls” at The Economist
Also Related: “Gendercide” at The Economist